Monday, February 8, 2010

Character Craze!

This is the thing. In real life, we think as we speak, right? (Maybe?) Well, when we write, we can't do this:

I stumbled up them stairs and crashed head first into the thingie. "Dagnabit!" I busted out, cradling my noggin, "Ma, why'd you leave Joelynn's toy there?" I glared at her all ugly like and she stared at me all cock-eyed. "Ain't funny, Ma!"

Okay, I think you've got the point. That, my dear, is real life. Don't we all think the way we speak? Our speech is as good as our thoughts, right? No? Maybe? There is a difference, however, when we put our 'thinking caps' on and write intelligibly:

I stumbled up the stairs and crashed head first into the banister. "Dagnabit!" I cried out, cradling my head, "Ma, why'd you leave Joelynn's toy there?" I glared at her when she gave me a teasing wink. "Ain't funny, Ma!"

For my WIP, I am writing 3rd person. He loves to party, drink and do all sorts of naughty things. You can imagine his way of thinking and speaking. I am wondering how do I separate my voice from his when I write? (Especially when he is drunk):

Mirah. Her face was in a tight pinch, her glasses flipped up to the crown of her head. Through the small window of groupies, Moggie saw her haul something over them with a low grunt.

“Oh s*!” Moggie shouted, but he couldn’t move or get away. The girls were heavy on him. “Move!” he roared. But just as he managed to pry one girl off, down it came. Icy. Wet. Everywhere. The girls bounced away with a chorus of shrieks.

“Get out of my room, Moggie!” Mirah’s turned red. She dropped the bucket on his head and it made a hollow sound as it bounced away.

Okay, the 'narration' is me talking and telling the story, but Moggie can NOT possibly think that clearly because he is dead drunk. I've had people tell me that I need to stay true to their character.

If I am going to write a YA of a high school girl who uses lots of slang--I know I can't use slang as I write the book, But! I can't use big words unless she is an honor student or something. Can you see how this is a bit contradictory?


Oh, and to use contractions. On one of my novels (that I've rewritten), I contracted every word in the story outside of dialogue because the POV was a 17 year old girl and it became most distracting.


Where do you draw the line and how do you balance out this little problem? Is it even a problem for you? I would LOVE to hear from you!

PS--If you really like all this rock star talk, you've GOT to visit Nikki's post on them! It is hilarious and oh-so-true!


  1. In my novel I had some characters only speak in contractions and one in particular only did if they were very upset-so that they had different little things to help give them distinct voice and if something changed you would in theory, notice.

    Another thing I like to emphasize voice might be one always uses color in their language=very visual or perhaps never does if they lack that vision.

  2. Elizabeth--one possible solution is to make parts of your WIP more omni 3rd person (if it's not already there--and I say "more" because it doesn't have to be all omni or all limited), and increase narrative distance for that description outside of MC's direct purview to keep the scene moving forward.

    Here's a great post on narrative distance that I found extremely useful to solving similar problems in one of my WIPs:

    So to sum: para A (3rd omni) describes room, other details (narrator basically); para B is in Moggie's head (3rd limited) and he's drunk as a skunk. Rinse. Repeat.

    Hope that helps.

  3. Sounds like you already have some useful advice so I won't add to the swarm. Glad to hear you moving foward. =]

  4. When I write 3rd pov, I write a deep 3rd. So any narration I try to keep as close to my main character's voice as possible. I like it to almost read as first person. So it depends on if you are doing deep, limited or omni third. Good luck figuring it out! It's not easy. :)

  5. Have you ever thought of writing your story in 1st person? That keeps you deep in the character's voice.

    If you decide to stay with 3rd, I'd suggest sticking to what the character would think/say. If he's drunk, then your narrative should reflect that, obviously not to the degree that you can't understand him, but make sentences shorter and more frazzled. You want to hide in the shadows as the writer but not disappear entirely.

  6. David--thank you for your help, I really appreciate it!

    Wow, Jon Paul, that was very helpful. I'll have to take a real good look at that and practice the washing, rinsing and repeat method! ;)

    Hi Laura--you are such a sweetie for dropping bye! I can't wait to see you this weekend! ((hugs))!

    Thanks Laura! I appreciate your help. Yes, I need all the luck I can gather!

    Hi KM! I've written only ONE story in 1st person. Whew. It was very fun, and very limiting as to the ways of revealing events. Thank you so much for sharing with me!

  7. Oops, I just realized I addressed two Lauras! The first one is for L.T. and the second for Laura Pauling.


  8. Popping in to say "HI!" And also to say that I agree with KM. The reader should not hear the writer's voice so much that they're pulled out of the story. It may help to first write the scene 1st person and pretend like you're actually him. Then go back and put it in 3rd and clean it up, but only to the point where the reader can understand it, but still be in the story.

    These little conundrums are what lead us to becoming better writers. It's great to have such a supportive community. Thanks for your blog.

  9. This is a tough thing to overcome. Luckily, I think third person lends itself to getting "outside" the character a little bit easier than first does. So you do have that going for you.

  10. Hi Kristie! Hi Back! Right, right--yes, I am to totally avoid using my voice and use the MC's voice. Fun wordplaying, hu?

    Elana! Thanks for the compliment. I love validation. You're the best! :D


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